If you're a therapist; you've got it all worked out, right?
It‘s an understandable thing to think - we therapists have done years of training and engaged in plenty of our own therapy along the way. Any issues we‘ve had have all been ‘dealt with‘ and nothing troubles us any longer. We sit loftily looking down upon struggling humanity, seeking only to impart our wisdom to those who will listen.
Guess what? No.
What makes a therapist a good one is that they have struggled and that they continue to do so. Yes, we‘ve undergone a process which heightens our awareness of how we as individuals work on an emotional level and, yes, we‘ve learnt about different models of human emotional development and gained experience in how particular skills might help a person in distress.
But empathy is key. Without it, in my view, there is no therapy. And empathy comes with the therapist‘s (and everyone‘s) ability to connect with and acknowledge their own suffering while not being overwhelmed by it. Therapists‘ lives have trials, mistakes, joys, frustrations, fears and tears as everybody‘s has. Sometimes we can call on our training and experience to overcome things more easily than we otherwise could and we are fortunate because of this. But it‘s not always the case.
Sometimes we need help too which we get from those who love us, from supervisors and from our own therapists when we need to. Although being distressed is deeply uncomfortable and sometimes feels unbearable, we can (once we‘ve processed it and made it more manageable) call on it when sitting with a client who feels similarly. And because we‘re not afraid of those overwhelming feelings having survived our own, we can accept someone else‘s even when they struggle to.
So, are we more ‘sorted‘ than you? Not really. Perhaps we‘re just a bit more aware of how ‘un-sorted‘ we are and we know when to step back and look after ourselves.
We‘re people first and therapists second.
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Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
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